Royal jelly (RJ) is a glandular secretion produced by worker honeybees and is a special food for the queen honeybee. It results in a significant prolongation of the lifespan of the queen honeybee compared with the worker honeybees through anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-microbial activities. Consequently, RJ is used as cosmetic and dietary supplement throughout the world. In addition, in vitro studies and animal experiments have demonstrated that RJ inhibits cell proliferation and stimulates apoptosis in various types of malignant cells and affects the production of various chemokines, anti-oxidants and growth factors and the expression of cancer-related molecules in patients with malignancies, especially in patients treated with anti-cancer agents. Therefore, RJ is thought to exert anti-cancer effects on tumor growth and exhibit protective functions against drug-induced toxicities. RJ has also been demonstrated to be useful for suppression of adverse events, the maintenance of the quality of life during treatment and the improvement of prognosis in animal models and patients with malignancies. To understand the mechanisms of the beneficial effects of RJ, knowledge of the changes induced at the molecular level by RJ with respect to cell survival, inflammation, oxidative stress and other cancer-related factors is essential. In addition, the effects of combination therapies of RJ and other anti-cancer agents or natural compounds are important to determine the future direction of RJ-based treatment strategies. Therefore, in this review, we have covered the following five issues: (1) the anti-cancer effects of RJ and its main component, 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid; (2) the protective effects of RJ against anti-cancer agent-induced toxicities; (3) the molecular mechanisms of such beneficial effects of RJ; (4) the safety and toxicity of RJ; and (5) the future directions of RJ-based treatment strategies, with a discussion on the limitations of the study of the biological activities of RJ.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited